UCOL to be hit by strike action

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 08:04 04/03/2014

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Last-minute negotiations fell short of what UCOL staff wanted, with scheduled strike action set to go ahead today.

Eleventh-hour employment neg-otiations between the Tertiary Education Union and UCOL were entered into yesterday with the promise industrial action could be canned if an adequate pay increase was offered.

But after nearly three hours of discussions, the parties were unable to come to an agreement and a planned picket outside the polytechnic's three campuses, in Palmerston North, Whanganui and Masterton, should go ahead this afternoon.

Ongoing industrial action, including two Wear Red events and handing out pamphlets and stickers, has been spurred by a stalemate between UCOL and the union over the lack of an across-the-board pay rise this year.

But UCOL tabled an offer yesterday which included two additional days paid leave this year, plus salary increases of up to 2 per cent, depending on whether additional government funding was given.

The offer was declined. The union wanted a 2.5 per cent pay rise.

Union deputy secretary Nanette Cormack said the conditional offer didn't meet members' demands.

"It's only a maybe really . . . staff have said to us they want a pay increase and we don't accept that they have to wait for the Government to give extra funding. UCOL's management should value staff now by prioritising salaries."

UCOL spokeswoman Christine Beech said the polytechnic would be open today, students were expected to attend class and there would be "minimal disruption" to UCOL's day-to-day dealings.

Union branch president Tina Smith said an offer based on unbudgeted "maybe money" was disheartening.

"Had there been any assurance that the employer would find real money later in the year, we would have called off the strike, but we could not get that assurance.

"UCOL has choices and money for some things, now they need to find real money and prioritise fair pay."

This afternoon's action is expected to involve more than 220 UCOL academic and support staff striking for the second time this year.

Association of Students at UCOL (AS@U) acting president Miranda Orpin said there were concerns students would suffer.

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- Manawatu Standard

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